Our culture is changing rapidly, and many Christians arenâ€™t keeping up. The old formulas that have worked for decades wonâ€™t work with the emerging generation. If thereâ€™s one lesson that the modern, successful evangelical church needs to learn it is this. We need a fresh perspective on what our world is like today from someone who has escaped the Christian subculture and ventured into the heart and hearts of non-Christians.
Enter Dan Kimball. His book, They Like Jesus, but not the Church, gives the perspective that is badly needed. Many adjectives could describe this book: wise, witty, gutsy, convicting, passionate, and compassionate. But one word that kept coming to mind was â€œsmugâ€â€”because this attitude was conspicuous by its absence. Kimball humbly assesses what the church has done right and especially what it is doing wrong. He speaks as a representative of the church, never parading a haughty apologetic, but offering a vulnerable look at how we are missing our opportunity to be energized by the missionary calling that is placed on us all.
In one respect, Kimballâ€™s They Like Jesus is Joe Bayleyâ€™s Gospel Blimp for a new generation. It hits between the eyes that our concern for our culture is not optional, not something that we can pay others to handle, not something for theoretical chats with other like-minded Christians. To borrow and pervert Michael Pattonâ€™s phrase, we canâ€™t outsource our theology and we canâ€™t outsource our evangelism. Our concern for our culture must be seen in getting outside our comfort zone, genuinely loving people and meeting them where they are at. This mission mandate has been a part of true Christianity since Jesus uttered the Great Commission. That hasnâ€™t changed. But what has changed is the world around us. We are in a postmodern age, and our task is not to call people to modernism. Our task is to call them to Christ, and to do so first by listening to them, respecting them as individuals, loving them as friends.
For a variety of reasons, the evangelical church has been teetering over a precipice for some time. Not too much will push it over the edge. Tragically, that could happen from its own self-destructive forces in the next few decades. In many ways, we have left our first love in the 21st-century American church and replaced it with mere symbols of a hollowed-out spiritualityâ€”or worseâ€”political agendas and Pharisaic attitudes. Kimball clearly sees the danger and speaks prophetically to the church, wooing it back to its Lord and back to the Lordâ€™s heart and agenda. If you read this book even half-heartedly, youâ€™ll be uncomfortable, convicted, and challenged down to your toes. Think what will happen if you really hear what Kimball is saying! I can say this book is a world-beater. I pray that many, many Christians will read it, absorb it, and think through how they can emulate Christâ€™s love for the world in a way that is both true to the gospel and palatable to those who have lost their way. At bottom, Kimball is showing us that we have the privilege to love those who are not like us, and that we must do so. The gospel is not just about proclamation, but about wooing someone by genuinely caring for them. Too many Christians have been raised in battle-ready apologetics techniques. These wonâ€™t cut it any more (not sure they ever did). Without backing down one iota on what the gospel is, Kimball cuts a path for reaching our culture with love backed by truth, rather than truth that has a low regard for love.
I know this sounds like an ad (and I sincerely do hope that Kimball sells a boatload of these books because this message is that important to get out), but if you could read only five books this year, They Like Jesus, but not the Church should be one of them.
If any have read it, or parts of it, hereâ€™s a good place to talk about what youâ€™ve read. I wanted this blog to be your turn to talk with each other about this book. What do you like? What do you not like? Where is Kimball pushing the boundaries too far? Where is he too soft? Have you got better ideas for how to reach those who are about to face a Christless eternity? Iâ€™m all ears.